As great as it is to see classic games reappearing on the iPhone, retro gamers are not so vacuous as to be immediately satisfied by any quick, pixel-perfect emulation of a classic game.
They (we) expect just as much imagination and fancy features as any new game receives, which is a direct contradiction to the idea that churning out retro remakes is easy money.
Admittedly, Taito has released its share of quick and dirty modern revisions, but Space Invaders Infinity Gene most definitely isn’t one of them.
There’s a beautiful moment of nostalgic self-homage when the game begins with an ultra-basic rendition of the original, black and white Space Invaders. The four ominous sound effects thud in the background as you send a few shots off into the xenomorphic crowd. Suddenly the screen erupts in a burst of light and the gameplay evolves into the first level of Infinity Gene.
The DNA of the original shooter is still evident, but the gameplay immediately slickens, with a firework show of polygons and vectors bursting in the background.
Each level is quick, and grows by a small amount with every step up the digital evolutionary ladder until you’re playing a completely different game (though still within the same, wonderfully distinct genome).
New weapons are equipped and eventually your ship is freed from its single plane of movement to follow your finger around the screen. This is pretty much all the control that Space Invaders Infinity Gene needs, foregoing the fumbling tedium of an onscreen D-pad to simply follow your digit’s movements.
What’s particularly clever about this system is that the ship doesn’t automatically place itself under your fingerprint, but echoes your touch relative to where you first make contact with the touchscreen.
The game also looks every bit as spectacular as any new 3D extravaganza, and boasts a sophisticated retro aesthetic that most any other games would struggle to pull off. That’s not to say it doesn’t dabble in the third dimension, of course, but it sticks to its nostalgic vogue through the endless streams of pixelated alien regiments and behemoth boss battles.
Infinity Gene makes good use of the iPhone's 3.0 feature that allows applications to access your music library. Choosing a song from your list not only provides the soundtrack of your choice, but the levels vary in accordance with the beats and tunes of your MP3s.
That said, anyone with even a passing interest in music electronica will be loath to silence Infinity Gene’s spectacular, metronomic soundtrack. The audio is every bit as stylish and idiosyncratic as the graphics, with a subtle hint of their genetic origins still present in every beat.
So just as we saw with Pac-Man Championship Edition recently, a game we thought couldn’t possibly evolve has done just that. Infinity Gene allows a new generation of gamers to revel in its gameplay, fulfilling the promise of Space Invaders Infinity Gene’s genetic legacy in a very real and wonderfully entertaining way.